Seaver Chan started a tutoring business with his wife, Natasha, at the end of 2011. After graduating from college, they realized that they shared a passion for helping others learn through tutoring. With that realization they decided to start a private tutoring company, catering to their student’s needs in a way that was completely personalized and based on the student’s goals. This dedication to individualized learning has differentiated their small business and driven their growth. They started with one student that they taught at the local library and now they have more than 120 coming to their center. I had the opportunity to talk with Seaver and ask him how he got started, what has contributed to their success and what advice he has for others.
Interview with Seaver Chan of Vanguard College Prep
What does a typical day look like for you?
My wife works for our business full time, while I have a day job in an accounting firm. So after I’m done with my 9-5, I book it back to our tutoring center and tutor until about 9 pm.
How do you balance everything?
I work Monday-Friday at my day job and then Tuesday-Thursday I book it back to the training center to teach. Fridays I take off from teaching and Saturday I’ll take the entire day off, I need at least one day to myself. Otherwise, I would go crazy. And then Sundays we teach all day. Sunday’s are probably our biggest day because it’s the weekend and when students are available to come in. After a while you just kind of get used to the long hours. I had to give up things I used to find enjoyable.
Back in college, I used to be a gamer, now not so much. So, it’s about budgeting time.
What was the tipping point when you knew you needed a dedicated space for your business?
We outgrew our model because we had more and more students coming in and we could no longer accommodate them in the library. We were able to support ourselves with my day job, and everything we earned from the business we reinvested, so we were able to save enough to open up a commercial location without taking any loans.
What’s the next step for your business?
Depending on where we are in the next year or so, we will probably open another location and/or take our tutoring online. We are also planning on doing a lot more charity work. I’m involved with the
Big Brother Big Sister program and want to help make tutoring available to underserved communities.
What’s your favorite thing about your business?
My absolute favorite thing is seeing the students understand a concept that I’m trying to explain. We pride ourselves in the way we explain things and seeing the students’ eyes light up is the best! And also when our students give us their test results back. It is very rewarding to know we helped them reach their target score!
Why do you focus on ACT/SAT tutoring?
When I took the SAT my mom paid for test prep from a well-known test prep company. After I’d taken the test I asked her how much it had cost. She said $200/session and every session was about 2 hours. So, first of all I said, “Thank you, Mom for investing in my education.” And next of all, “That is way too much!” In addition, the instructors just blew through the lessons and did not stop to make sure I understood the concepts. So when we started our business, our model was based on the idea of affordable private tutoring that targets the students’ needs first.
What would you tell someone just starting out with their business?
Make sure you’re doing what you want to do. Leave money and profit out of it. I mean, yeah, at the end of the day it is a business, but if you don’t want to wake up in the morning to do what you do then, no way you’ll survive as an entrepreneur. You have to love what you’re doing every step of the way. Also, do no evil. Be ethical and transparent with our customers.
About Vanguard College Prep:
“Our mission at Vanguard College Prep is to provide private, À la carte, tutoring to students who are getting ready to take the SAT, ACT and Duke TIP. Our tutors have over a decade of teaching experience and know exactly how to further customize our curriculum to cater to the unique and specific needs of our students. At Vanguard, good is not good enough. We aspire to make you the best.”
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